KHARTOUM, SUDAN — Environmental problems have a particularly devastating impact on impoverished communities already strained for resources. Soil erosion and land degradation create food shortages, pollution and insufficient waste management contaminate water while increased occurrences of extreme weather cause disastrous damage to community infrastructure and resources. Further entrenching poverty, the world’s poor are the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change and environmental pollution.
In Sudan, young entrepreneurs are fighting to minimize the impact of climate change by launching environmentally-conscious startups.
Environmental Degradation in Sudan
Khartoum, the capital and largest city of Sudan, has experienced severe environmental degradation mostly due to deforestation. This has left the city vulnerable to increased instances of extreme weather by exposing the city’s 6.3 million residents to floods, dust storms and heat waves. Khartoum has become one of the hottest cities in the world, experiencing both an increase in temperature and extreme weather in the last few years.
The rest of Sudan is not much different. Along with deforestation, a U.N. environmental report describes serious land degradation, loss of biodiversity and significant air, land and water pollution in the nation. All of these environmental problems are intensified by the changing climate, making these environmental startups all the more important.
Poverty and the Environment in Sudan
Almost half of Sudan’s population lives below the poverty line, about 46.5 percent, and environmental problems only worsen this statistic. To deal with severe weather like floods or heat waves, poor households must reduce the amount of food they eat, withdraw their children from school to work on the farm or with livestock, default on loans and liquidate productive assets. These practices allow poor families to sustain themselves during an environmental disaster but inhibit their ability to improve their financial situation.
Severe land and water pollution also mean heightened food and water insecurity for impoverished communities, especially in rural areas where soil desiccation and reduced soil fertility has diminished the productivity of farmland. Even worse, the agricultural sector is the most important economic sector in Sudan, employing about 80 percent of Sudanese workers. Environmental problems threaten these jobs, putting the economic well-being of the majority of Sudan’s population, as well as the nation as a whole, at risk.
Environmental Startups: Improving Poverty and the Environment in Sudan
Youth-led environmental startups involving students, software developers and entrepreneurs are emerging with a common goal to improve the living conditions of Sudan by helping the environment. The prerogative of each startup varies from advocacy to waste management to reforestation. One startup, Sudan Utopia, aims to contain desertification and rehabilitate Sudan’s ecosystems through reforestation. Another startup plans to ease the impact of extreme weather events in Khartoum by installing solar energy panels, making electricity more reliable and more affordable. Startups like these alleviate the pressure of climate change, environmental degradation and extreme weather on Sudanese communities most vulnerable to it.
These startups are supported by the U.K. government and U.N. Environment through the program Adapt for Environment and Climate Resilience in Sudan. This program is a $13 million project to improve the environment in Sudan by working with the Sudanese government, U.N. agencies, non-governmental organizations and individual initiatives like these startups.
These youth-led initiatives could be a sustainable answer to solving the issues of poverty and the environment in Sudan. Empowering driven, environmentally conscious young people sets a stable foundation for a better future for the nation. Although there is still a long way to go, these startups give reason to be optimistic for the future of Sudan.
– Jillian Baxter